charming Irish town of Rossmore has growing pains. Traffic is
choking the streets, putting businesses in peril and making parking
impossible --- and don't even think about trying to cross the road.
Now a proposed bypass promises to solve many of those problems, but
it may create a host of others. The new road would tear through
Whitethorn Woods and, worse, destroy St. Ann's Well, a beloved icon
that has served myriad generations. For as long as anyone can
remember, locals and travelers from afar have been coming to the
Well to pray for help. The threat to St. Ann's is almost unbearable
for some, and the villagers have squared off against each other and
the prospective developers.
"Already people were in two minds about it. Some were saying that
it would take the life out of the place, others claimed that it
would return Rossmore some of its old character."
As is often the case, change brings out the best and the worst in
people. With a heavy heart, Father Brian Flynn observes heated
squabbles among his congregation, dividing families and forming
alliances of former enemies, and tries to decide how to best serve
his flock. He wonders where he should weigh in on the matter. He
has never liked being at the center of a controversy, and now, with
the citizens from both sides pushing for his support, he likes it
even less. How can he make everyone happy? He listens as they tell
their stories, and, surprisingly, he finds a way.
Neddy Nolan, who realizes he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer
(everyone says so), carefully considers the pros and cons of the
future bypass. His land is crucial to the project, so he must make
the right decision. Pressure comes at him from every direction, but
Neddy is not one to waver. He may be slow and plodding, but his
motivation is honest. The prospect of big money from the sale of
otherwise worthless property is bringing out a shameless greed in
some normally levelheaded folks while some "black sheep" are
shocking the town with their generous sides. Unlikely coalitions
are springing up, and once-solid relationships are crumbling. With
all the uproar, which way will Neddy go? The outcome means so much
to so many.
With a multitude of distinctive voices, it's like eavesdropping at
the town meeting. Maeve Binchy's endearing style shines through in
WHITETHORN WOODS, and her knack for crafting diverse personalities
with her pen is at its pinnacle. Her steadfast fans will be at
their happiest, and newcomers will cozy right up to Rossmore.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 24, 2011